CICS Professional Development Summer Institute in Weather and Climate
In support of the Cooperative Institute for Climate Science’s (CICS) intent to train the next generations to deal with the increasing complexity of understanding and predicting climate, CICS collaborated with a Princeton University professional development institute for New Jersey teachers, known as QUEST. QUEST is a long-standing summer program led by Princeton University’s Teacher Preparation Program. The two-week Weather and Climate unit, July 11-22, 2005, was for teachers in third through sixth grades and offered a wide range of inquiry-based experiences through which the teachers could develop an understanding of atmospheric processes and learn methods to teach about weather and climate. The unit was developed and taught by Dr. Steven Carson, formerly a scientist and Outreach Coordinator at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL), and is currently a middle school science teacher in Princeton.
The unit began with experiments and measurements involving pressure, temperature and humidity. A variety of activities were used to develop understanding of how energy from the sun is distributed over the earth, the seasons, the ways in which heat is transferred, and the basis and importance of the greenhouse effect. Many of those ideas were then brought together through the demonstration of the principles of cloud formation and the conditions that produce wind. Experiments demonstrating the Coriolis effect served as a basis to understand global circulation of the atmosphere and the generation of tropical cyclones. Hands on activities were used to develop explanations for lightning and tornadoes. Dr. R. Wetherald, a guest speaker from GFDL, further drew on the topics studied to discuss research and modeling concerning causes and consequences of global warming.
During the second week the drawing of isotherms on maps of monthly average temperature was used to develop ideas of climate vs. weather and relate the patterns to principles developed in the first week. Weather conditions and patterns were further explored through drawing isotherms and plotting fronts, examining a variety of maps available on the internet, and learning the meaning of forecast terminology. More quantitative experiments were done with the distribution of light energy over the earth and with different ways to measure and express humidity. These were related to models of weather and climate. Dr. Robert Wanton, a guest speaker from the Mount Holly Forecast Office of the National Weather Service provided further insight into data collection and forecasting. The formation of snow crystals and light and color in the atmosphere were also explored.
The program gave teachers an understanding of the basic principles behind weather and climate and the integration of those principles with other dimensions of climate change.
PARTICIPATING SCHOOL DISTRICTS
Week One – 17 teachers in grades 3-6 from the following school districts:
2 from Bordentown
2 from Hillsborough
1 from Lawrence Township
2 from Montgomery Township
2 from Princeton Township
3 from South Brunswick
4 from Trenton
1 from West Windsor-Plainsboro
Week Two – 15 teachers (same as above with the exception of 1 from Hillsborough and 1 from Lawrence Township)
25% participation from high poverty school district (Trenton)
FEEDBACK FROM TEACHERS:
“Dr. Steve Carson was exceptionally attentive…fabulous…excellent…extremely knowledgeable. He did a wonderful job of explaining concepts and making it easy to understand. Steve was able to find different ways to illustrate concepts and clear up misconceptions.”
“Two weeks of professional development was great, allowing time for reflection, understanding connections and refinement of content understanding. The time allowed the understanding of “big” ideas in week one and then application to more detailed concepts in the second week. I enjoyed the combination of inquiry activities, hands-on experiments, lecture and discussion. We had all the materials we needed.”
“I was able to apply the concepts and knowledge immediately.”
“I was so impressed – the best workshop I have ever been part of …I can’t think of any weaknesses.”